World Championship Snooker 2005

Being a successful young sportsman is a great gig. Other than having to deliberate what to spend your tournament winnings on, you only have to be good at getting somewhere really fast, or hitting things a really long way, or jumping over really high stuff, or kicking a ball exactly where you really want it to go; basically, excelling at one of the things we all used to do in the school playground.

Snooker stars inspire a peculiar kind of envy. They don't need to be fit, they can smoke, they don't have to get muddy, and there's no chance of grazing knees or spraining ankles. They can be womanizers (or man-izers) and, in fact, spending a night down the pub is the perfect way to get better at their job. In fact, the only discernable downside is that they all die at 40 from coronary heart disease from a lack of ever having to walk more than 12 feet in any direction.

Could PSP pocket snooker be the perfect way to sample the perfect profession while having the benefit of being able to actually walk places while doing so, and getting fit at the same time?

Snooker games can always be played in one of two ways: with aids and without aids. This isn't a set-up for some mid-review sneaky online contraceptive advert or advice – rather to say that the easiest way to play World Snooker Challenge 2005 is to do so with the guidelines switched on. This aiming aid demonstrates the trajectory of your cue ball when struck by tracing a line of dots along its projected course. Move the angle of your virtual cue and the dots move around the table enables you to line up the perfect shot with ease and confidence. The benefit of the PSP platform here is that the machine can be turned and rotated in your hand, and you only need a short pocket sized ruler to estimate exactly where your cue ball might end up when it finally slides to a silent stop.

Playing the game like this is short, sharp fun: it fools you into thinking you're great at working out angles and math and that you really could be the next Shaun Murphy. Except, of course you couldn't. Turn off the aiming aid and, although when you do hit a perfect shot the satisfaction will be that much greater, it will likely be such a rare occurrence that it's probably not worth the effort. It's not necessarily that you're no good at the principles and physics involved but rather that, due to the PSP's relatively small screen, the line between sinking a ball and it bouncing redundant off the pocket cushion is often just a couple of pixels wide and can't actually be perceived by the human eye. Even with the aiming aid on you'll find yourself cursing the game for failing what seemed like a perfectly placed line of fire.

As you progress through the game you'll get to unlock various bonuses, from amazing videos of some of the sport's most famous shots through to new locations, but generally these are a little on the slow, weak, uninventive side. Indeed, the whole game's presentation and execution is a little on the slow, weak, uninventive side. Loading times suck your time, trading something you've set aside just for playing for just waiting. Everything is carried out slooowly, from the opponents drawn out think times to the referee's shuffling replacement of the cue ball.

But, coming as this does from Sega, the structure of the game with its ranked matches and customisable player is reassuringly solid and in many ways similar to their other PSP title, Virtua Tennis. Varied and interesting commentary comes from John Parrot, Steve Davis and John Virgo and rounds off the strong audiovisual decoration. There's a plethora of variant game modes, including billiards, pool (either eight ball or nine ball) doubles and bar billiards.

In local wifi mode, two player matches can be fun but really, neither the game nor the concept suits the portable PSP platform that well. Matches take ages and there's none of the pick up and play dynamic that many of the PSP's other games immediately offer.

So the game ticks all the right boxes as a recreation of the slow sport, but whether slow sport is what the PSP lives for is debatable.

World Championship Snooker 2005 is on sale now.

World Championship Snooker 2005

Fans of snooker or those looking for an introduction to the real life game will enjoy what's on offer but you'll barely be halfway through a frame before you've reached your stop on the tube.
Simon Parkin
Simon Parkin
Simon Parkin is an author and journalist on video games. A core contributor to Eurogamer and Edge, he is also a critic and columnist on games for The Guardian. He is probably better at Street Fighter than you, but almost certainly worse at FIFA.